Monday, May 3, 2010

Weekend Discoveries

Over the weekend, I finally got the picture of myself and Mr. Keller off of Dan's phone. It wasn't the best of photos of myself, but then again I was not planning ahead, so the phone photo is the best I can do. He was really nice and even listened to me extol the virtues of his pie crust recipe. It saved me from my recent run of awful pie crusts and turned the act of making pies back into a joyous one. The food at Fleur de Lys was also so wonderful. It inspired me to get back to trying my bread baking, especially after eating the very tasty fig and pistachio bread that they were serving. I set to reading my copy of Peter Reinhart's Artisan Bread Every Day on Saturday. Bread making started right away.

First thing on Saturday night, I started my bread dough. I also resisted my usual urge to skip ahead and make something complicated. I instead did the responsible thing and started with the first recipe. It was for lean bread, and it was really quite easy to whip up. All I had to do was mix all the ingredients in the mixer for two minutes, then it was time to let it sit for a while. Next, instead of kneading the bread, I performed Reinhart's stretch and fold technique. It was really easy and involved stretching and folding the dough four times, flipping it over, and letting it rest again for ten minutes before repeating the process again a total of four times. At the end of this, it all went into the refrigerator for an over night ferment. When it was two hours ahead of baking, I found this glorious dough waiting for me.

The next step was to divide the dough. This recipe makes two large loaves or four to six small loaves. I opted for the six small loaves because, let's face it, fresh baked bread is the best and most tastiest bread! Plus with there being only two of us eating it at a time, small loaves mean less day old bread. The other wondrous thing about this recipe is that it can be frozen or held in the refrigerator for up to four days. This means that one could start their bread over the weekend and have fresh loaves for that week and the next in the freezer and refrigerator. Your baking day involves only the shaping, resting, and then baking of the bread itself! Brilliant! I shaped one loaf, saved two in the refrigerator, and froze three.

In the end, this is the loaf that came out of the oven. I think it was a bit too brown, but it was the best bread I have ever made. It was also the least time consuming and least work I have ever done for a fresh baked bread. It makes me think that I will be casting off the plastic bread bags forever. Later in the book, Reinhart covers rolls and sandwich breads, and if they are all this easy, I will be making my own bread from here on out. This also opens up the possibility for true Chicago style hot dogs because I will be able to supply us with the poppy seed buns.

We served the bread with a broiled salmon. We marinaded the salmon in some olive oil and fresh squeezed lemon juice, salt and pepper, and then broiled it quickly. Both mangoes and avocados were on sale this week, so we made a fresh mango salsa with red onion, cilantro, jalapeno, and red pepper to go with the fish as well as fresh guacamole. While it broke my usual one grain per meal rule due to the chips and bread, it was a great tasting meal. I truly enjoyed every bite.

A quick gardening note before I head off for a walk outside. When I was watering the plants on Sunday, I found the first pea pod forming. I thought I would share a picture. It looks like I will have several more soon. I am so excited to think about some of my own fresh peas off of the balcony. There were also some new seedlings popping up in the soil as well. Some very small green scarlet onions have shown up as well as cilantro and thyme. More of the red sails lettuce and some more beets have also joined the ranks. It is exciting to see something you plant appear from the dirt. I will keep my eyes peeled for more little shoots and hope to see more soon.

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